I'm going to buy a new soundcard in the near future and it's going to be a x-fi elite pro, probably.
now, the question, I'm going to ask, is not about the soundcard but about a soundsystem that can keep up with the card.
I'm not too much into home-cinema or 5/7.1 or these kind of things; what I want is quality music. that and the fact that I like hardrock and metal mark my old sound system (which is some kenwood dvd player with 5.1 sound) as obsolete, as it simply doesn't have the necessary power to make my music sound right.
however, I do play games every now and then and sometimes I DO watch some movies on my pc so any 7.1 would be a nice bonus.
so my question is:
are 7.1 sound systems any good with music or are they all as bad as my current soundsystem?
Music is in 2-channel so if you are a music freak, spend your money on better speakers instead of a bunch of little cubes that are basically transistor radios. They may look cute, but Newtonian Physics sort of gets in the way of waveform accuracy. So yeah, that's the other point. When you have an X budget, and you can have 7 speakers or 2, generally speaker, the set with "2" has probably better individual speakers.
As for the 7.1 setups you listed, the Creative's satellite drivers have about 36% more surface radiating area. Now, this may be assuming much, but since we are in the lower price materials bracket, it might be pretty accurate to say the cone materials are pretty similar. So all things equal, the Creative's will play with 36% less distortion at the same volume, and depending on the cone position relative to the surface its mated to, possible mean better dispersion, bigger soundstage. Is the 36% "better output" worth it for the price? I dunno. If you move to bookshelves/regular loudspeakers, you could probably get something like 400% better output for the same price difference, but ah...the term "home theater speakers" seems to strike fear in young PC buyers so they end up running off to buy these pre-packaged all-in-one systems. This is not very different from people who build a top of the line system for $1.5k by themselves, or, go by an Alienware (or Dell) for $4k.
So, like I mentioned before, generally speaking, the best bang for the buck is to buy an amp and a pair of bookshelves if you want awesome music. Mainly because all-in-one systems take alot of shortcuts, cut costs, and are designed to look nice rather than perform well. This does require buying 3 things instead of 1 (speaker wire as well), so it's 3 times more complex given its 2 things more to do (sometimes might even require you to buy stands! oh my) and ah...so if you want to know more, I can clarify, but if you aren't interested in the work, then perhaps I'll suggest some all-in-one PC boxes like the ones you're looking at.
Well here's the question--what do you think is too big for speakers? To give you a perspective, the average bookshelf speaker is probably about 1/5 to 1/4 the size of a Antec Sonata tower case. If that's too big for your room, then you really have some limited (quality sonic) options. If you can handle the average 10"x8x8" size of a bookshelf speaker, then you're in business.
With a bookshelf you can either do nearfield (like with normal PC speakers), or a few feet back (this really lets a big sound stage build). You could have a table like the middle of the room, or even against the wall (where you are seated on the end close to the wall), and the speakers are on the other side of the room, say 5-10 feet away, depending on your room size, either hanging on the wall or on stands (or even a low shelf). There's a lot of cosmetic ways of doing this, but nearfield is always the easiest solution.
As for the amp? This really depends on your budget. You can get away with as little as $40 on a Sonic-T-amp ($20 for the T-amp, $20 for the power adaptor). It's a 10W amp essentially. Perfect for nearfield music listening, and given the high sensitivity of larger bookshelves to power input, but if you like party music, it won't be enough.
Any stereo or multichannel receiver (Onkyo TXSR501-503, any Pioneer or H&K receiver are considered good names that don't lie excessively about power output, like Sony and Yamaha tend to do). You can get these refurbed for around $100-150 online. The sweetspot receiver is Panasonic SA-XR57 right now at $300 ($220 if you can find the HDMI-less XR55, but those are harder to find). It's popular for its looks, and very clean power output, good for 200W in stereo mode, which is Class-D, unlike the more common analog amps (sometimes these are called "digital amps").
As a audio enthusiast, I'd be very happy to suggest speakers to you. There are two types I'm gonna suggest. 1) Good bang for the buck retail speakers. and 2) Very accurate internet direct speakers. In the same fashion as I did inexpensive, then more expensive amps previously.
(1) Popular retail bookshelves are Athena AS-B1/B2, and Infinity Primus 150, both can be had for around $100/pair. These are pretty accurate speakers (+/-3db accurate from a 60hz-20KHz...a comparative PC speaker system would be closer to +/- 5db from 200hz-20KHz...let's just say the bass isn't accurate enough to fit into the +/- range without expanding it horrendously).
You can find these at any Best Buy or Circuit City I believe. For a higher end offering, look for the Energy C-3, this is probably the most accurate retail speaker in its price range, which is either $250 to $500 depending on where you live, and where you find this. Good Guys might still have some of these. These guys measure pretty good, I believe almost +/- 2db from 60hz-20Khz.
(2) Internet Direct. These aren't nobodies, but guys who used to work in big retail companies, but realized there was too much bureacratic tape in order to correct probelms with the product that prevent it from being tonally accurate (or, its just to expensive because its retail).
Low bass output, but very accurate, +/- 1.8db from 80-20Khz. It's sealed, meaning it won't sound boomy in a small enclosed area (like inside a bookshelf). Good for this use mostly, because you need a good sub to cover the bottom half.
Good bass output, very accurate +/-1.75db from 60-20Khz. The accompanying sub is accurate down to 28hz (+/-3db) and only costs $200, so this is probably *the best* 2.1 system money can buy at $400, ever. Comes in a nice wood veneer. These guys made the famous Swan M200 PC loudspeakers. They company they cooborated with to make the Swans are incidentally involved with making the Infinity Primus line.
Err...these are my speakers. So I guess I am giving them a shoutout. Isn't as cost effective as either of the previous two, but a bit more accurate +/- 1.1db 60-20KHz. Made by a guys who used to work at the big THX speaker company M&K. It's big and black and isn't the prettiest speaker you've ever seen (just like M&K speakers), but you won't find a retail speaker that's this accurate until you are hitting the $2000s (and even then, only a few companies at that price range are this accurate...Revel in particular I'm thinking of. Of course, at $2000, you are paying $500 for the wood and craftsmanship, and probably $1000 for the name).
So, that brings me to the next point. If you go internet direct (also known as not very good looking), you can get very good performance. If you go retail, you pay for the middlemen, you pay for the brand, you pay for the advertising, and you pay for some suspicious stuff. What are these suspicious things?
If you look at high end electronics/amp/speaker companies on the retail end, a lot of the stuff they use is high quality (of course) but over the counter stuff which makes it no different than Dell vs Build it your own. The high end electronics at $2k have pretty damn good chips, but the same farroudja chips, or chroma correction, or burr brown DACs can be found in *much* cheaper online direct products. Part of this "suspicious difference" can be found in the packaging. For example, the same $30 Sonic-T amp I was suggesting to you can be bought for $150 if you want it in a nice metal case. See how expensive the box is? Now imagine those huge $1k amps. I would wager those amps aren't much different than those in a quality receiver, but the thick reinforced steel chasis may have something to do with the $1k price tag (and all the other retail related stuff). This is like any other industry. Take the LCD industry for example. There are LCDs all over the place in price, from dozens of sellers. But realistically, there are only 4 or 5 panel manufacterers. Same thing here. Alot of the stuff is the same parts, just regurgitated in a prettier package.
Just a heads up.
PS: Anyway, I personally would go with the AV123 $400 pair, and maybe pair it with a $100 H&K or Onkyo refurbed receiver off the internet. At $400, you have speakers that go way beyond most computer speakers in terms of upper harmonics, and none of the PC subs can go below 40hz anyway (we're talking about maybe -15 or more db at 40hz). This thing is FLAT to 28hz. This means you get deep in your chest bass, instead of bass that's all peaky and sounds like a one note fart. Pretty nasty. Wish I had such a sick sub =P
But if the price is too high, heading off to Best Buy and picking up a pair of Athenas isn't a bad deal either. Hell, if they are hooked up, you can listen to them there, and then walk over to the PC speaker section. Bring your own mp3 player, and play the same stuff through them. Determine for yourself if you can hear a difference; I'm not here to tell you its better or worse. It's your money, and you need to know what your priorities is. Sure beats those guys who say a $200 set of PC speakers is as good as it gets, and sounds better than any $1000 speakers don't it? Or me telling you its so worth it. All you gotta do is walk in a store, and hear for your self, rather than listen to a bunch of guys who don't know what the heck they are talking about (maybe I don't, who knows?) Such a win/win situation for *you* the buyer.
I'm glad I posted here... thanks for the awesome input!
as you might have noticed, I'm not american (I'm german but I still decided to post here in hope I'd find people like astrallite) so I'm having trouble finding european/german shops for the things you listed.
for the amp, I did not find any SA-XR57 but only the SA-XR55EG-K; I assume that's the one you meant? but the cheapest price I can find is ~280 euro and that's a "bit" more than $220...
for the speakers (I like the SVS SBS-01), I'll a) try to find out whether the american shops ship to europe or b) have to find something of simmilar quality.
Less production and more emphasis on hand-made products means loudspeakers in Europe are a little more expensive.
The primary brands in Europe I believe are B&W (Bowers & Wilkens) and Dynaudio. Hmm, European speakers are an interesting breed. They are pretty accurate, similar in design to American Internet Direct speakers, but with a few exceptions. The bass is a boosted, in order to make it more useable without a subwoofer (this is not really a good thing in the greater scale of things). The highs are a bit subdued. (In the US they call this "East Coast Sound" or North Atlantic sound. The opposite is "West Coast Sound", which is boosted highs and bass, with recessed mids. Then there is what alot of computer speakers exhibit--a A-weighted frequency response curve, lacking in highs and bass, boosted midrange, recessed mibass.) Perhaps they sell Paradigm too (Canadian brand) in Europe. If so, look for the Titan and Atom speakers. If they sell B&Ws, look at the DM303s and if your budget is high enough, look at the Dynaudio Audience series. Sorry, prices in Europe are kinda crappy, I really didn't think you were from over there =
Shipping to Europe may be on the high side, so, I would definitely suggest going to an audio shop and taking listening tests and asking for suggestions based on your price range and preferences.
Well to be honest with you astral, in england we have a little more than B&W in the shops here.
there are a lot of high end speaker pairs he could go for or even speaker packages, i would agree depending on where the speakers are placed dimesion of the room he must go to a audio shop and see the size of the speakers and sound quality, there somtimes is a bi difference in price but there usually a big difference in sound.
Names to look out for in a euro shop are:
Wharfdale (not bad for the price but boomy bass)
B&W (sound awsome if you have £3000/$6000usd to spend)
to be honest i dont agree with everything you siad but you know your stuff.
Sweet screaming baby Jesus. Is this a worthwhile thread?
Anyway, good advice above. I'd just like to reiterate, if you are planning on spending some real money, make sure you listen first. For example, I personally love the Mission sound; soft [somewhat underpowered] bass, clear & crisp midrange... it's definitely not for everyone. There are similar quirks with other manufacturers, just don't go into it blindly.
Of course, starting with an "X-fi elite pro" is a bit bizarre, since you're relying upon the integrity of Creative's agorithms...
If you have th money there is nothing better than a home theatre. By that I mean a seperate amp/receiver/speakers. If you already have a smaller boombox, shelf stereo, gheto blaster, etc... just plug your sound card into the line in and it will work fine for you and its free.
If your going to be buying, computer speakers offer the best value of quality for the price. A $600 set of computer speakers can rival many $2000+ home theatre setups.
First of all your sound card will process all your music so it sounds wonderful. It will convert all your 2 channel music to 7.1 as well so it sounds amazing, especially with metal.
My favorites are the Creative Gigaworks S750. Something a bit less pricy would be the Logitech Z5450. The logitechs are cheaper, have the nicer decoder for Xbox, playstation, etc... but I find they don't sound as good as Creatives and are a bit too boomy.
If you want a cheaper 2.1 system I'd have a look at Klipsche. Wicked speaker system but in this day and age why not go for 5.1 or 7.1? Don't waste your money on 2.1 when 5.1 can be had for so little. You may even check out the Klipsche 5.1. Those are very nice as well, some consider them the best on the market.